Adding Pakistan to ban list would be counterproductive: Bilawal

WASHINGTON: Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has warned that adding Pakistan to the list of nations whose citizens are banned from travelling to the United States will create a “host of hostilities” between the two countries.

“As far as the ban is concerned, I believe it only has detrimental effect on the countries it has included and if that is extended to Pakistan it will create a whole host of hostilities,” he said at a discussion hosted by the US Institute of Peace in Washington.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump slapped a travel ban on seven Muslim countries and later his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, hinted that Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt could also be added to the list.

Asked whether Pakistan could be included in the list of seven nations whose citizens had been barred from entering the US for at least 90 days, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said that including Pakistan in such a list “would also be a very negative indicator that the US is turning away from those very ideals that it stood for”. He added: “I hope that this is not the new normal.”

The PPP chairman said there was a lot of uncertainty about what the future policies were going to be and he would like to hold on to the wait-and-see approach. He said the Muslim ban “seems to be extremely controversial decision” in the United States as well.

“For my generation as a progressive Muslim in the world, it is really discouraging to see countries responding to the fear of others in such a way. We have learned through history that this is not the way to deal with such issues,” he said.

Instead of a sweeping ban, the PPP chairman suggested “interaction” with the nations where tiny minorities had imposed terrorism over vast majorities.

Such interactions could be enhanced “by finding common ground, studying in other peoples’ universities, learning about a shared culture, history,” he said, adding: “A few criminals should not be allowed to spoil the situation for everyone.”

Blaming an entire nation for the acts of a few, he said, was very discouraging for those Muslims who were fighting radical extremism because “people [put] their lives on the line on a daily basis to do so, to fight for what they believe in”.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari also referred to “another side of America”, the almost daily protests against the ban that started hours after President Trump signed the order. “The outpouring of support for the people affected by this ban is a very positive message sending to the world. I do hope that this issue will be sorted out very soon. Because this is sending a wrong message and is shrinking the space for those of us out there fighting Islamic extremism on the front lines,” he said. “I feel for the citizens of all these countries who have been thrown into chaos through these [executive orders],” he added.

Taking a shot at the Islamisation drive of the present government, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said that the PML-N was the same party that tried to make Nawaz Sharif, Ameerul Momineen.

He emphasised the need for a firmer approach for dealing with extremist groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa and condemned the PML-N government for not making any serious effort to eradicate terrorism from south Punjab.